Miami Heat Shooting Guard Preview: Dwyane Wade Comes Back Strong


Analyzing Last Year’s Performance

Despite the growing trend to attack Dwyane Wade by mainstream media (looking at you, Bill Simmons, Charles Barkley, etc.), the reality is that Wade is still a very good player. He set the bar so high throughout the first few years of his career that his degradation has seemed all the more alarming. And he didn’t make things easier as his season-long “maintenance program” to rest his knees for the postseason took a toll on the rest of the team.

Still, during the 54 regular-season games in which he played, Wade was solid and consistent. His per-game averages of 19 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.5 steals were sensational; his 54.5 field-goal percentage was a career-high.

Here’s a look at his percentage and effective shooting, courtesy of Nylon Calculus:

Clearly, Wade’s best work was around the rim. Because of LeBron James, “D-Wade” moved scored well without the ball, sneaking his way past defenders by making back-cuts along the baseline or trailing James on his way to the hoop. When operating with the ball, Wade was able to make his mid-range jumper (although less effectively) and his patented up-fake-for-the-foul is still fooling people, even after 11 years.

Unfortunately, the lasting image of Wade was his sub-par performance in the NBA Finals, where he joined the list of Heat players without “JAMES” on the jersey that played poorly. Tired and ineffective on offense, there were rumblings that Wade’s knees were shot. This video of his “defense” seemed to confirm it:

His underwhelming performance erased what was an All-Star caliber season that still placed Wade among the top guards in the NBA.

How LeBron’s Departure Impacts His Role

This summer, Wade opted out of the remaining two years of his contract, forgoing tens of millions of dollars in the process. The move was made in conjunction with Wade and Chris Bosh, as the “Big 3” were expected to re-sign for less and retool the Heat. Exit James and there was some concern that Wade might depart (unlikely) or retire with his three championships (more likely). Instead, he signed a two-year deal for less money, giving Miami the flexibility to contend this season and beyond.

James’ departure might impact Wade less than people expect. With Bosh now poised to be the top producer, Wade can maintain his role of top-level contributor. He’ll likely get more opportunity to bring the ball down court but point guard incumbent Mario Chalmers is expected to have an increased role in this regard. The likely case is that Wade will still be able to do what he does best; being opportunistic on offense and solid overall on defense.

But James’ return to “The Land” might also light a fire under the über-competitive Wade. Publicly, he’s affirmed his friendship and support of James but some of his comments about loyalty have been perceived as digs at his former teammate (still stings to write this). When the two players meet for the first time on Christmas Day as regular-season opponents, expect some fireworks like these classic battles:

A re-energized Wade might be enough to keep Miami into title contention this season.

Projections for this Season

 Aside from getting this married this summer, Wade has also spent time training and losing weight, expected to be a vast help this season. While we’ll never see the 2009 model of Wade ever again, we can expect him to be motivated, a little angry and in better shape than he’s been in years. There’ll be games when he chooses to sit out rather than push through soreness but that’s to be expected. Early season hopes are that Wade will play roughly 70 games, a big jump from last season.

As for his production, look for numbers slightly increased from last season – somewhere in the area of 20.5 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game.

This would be a great season for anyone else but, for Wade, it will be considered a “decent” showing for a surefire Hall-of-Famer. As mainstream pundits look to bury Wade even further, it’s also likely that Wade will miss out on the All-Star game for the first time in a decade. With players like Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose and even Kyle Lowry on the rise, Wade might be a spectator for the midseason celebration. But, given the event’s extended length to a full week, the older Wade will probably be happy to get the rest.

“Why I’m Excited” – Wes Goldberg

If I’m going to point to a reason I fell in love with basketball, I’m pointing to those years of watching the singular dominance of Dwyane Wade. Why does he have one of the highest usage ratings of all time among guards? Because he was freaking awesome, man. Now, I’m not expecting him to revert to that version of Wade simply because LeBron is gone. Much has changed since then. But I’m excited for the flash–or should I say–the glimpses of the flash of old. When that happens, it will be freaking awesome.

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